Virtual #Volops

At the launch of VolOps at the Irish Aid Volunteering Fair with staff from Comhlámh, Irish Aid and then Minister Seán Sherlock. 

Since the launch of VolOps at the Irish Aid Volunteering Fair in 2014, we have used the social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to post updates about international volunteering opportunities from the volunteer sending agencies in the Comhlámh code of good practice.  We also post updates from International Non-Government Organisations (INGOs) such as Trocaire, Oxfam Ireland, Concern and Goal and we post a variety of articles about responsible and responsive volunteering practices in general. 

Recently, of course, things have changed.  At first, we repurposed VolOps to amplify information about national volunteering opportunities and to post updates about self-care and positive mental routines from a variety of life-coaches and psychotherapists.  This felt intuitive and we will continue to do that.  But in addition to this, we are now starting to look at the types of international volunteering people can do online. 

Many of the volunteer sending agencies in our code of good practice made the decisions not to send volunteers on international placements this summer.  We commend those decisions and you can see the statement about this on our website.  However, this leaves many potential international volunteers wondering what they can do instead?   

There are a number of options.   

The UNV programme has a specifically designed online area where people can volunteer to work with organisations based in the so-called global south.  As a volunteer, you simply register your interest by filling in a form with your name, email address, date of birth, preferred languages and topics of interest and off you go.  You can then browse the website for tasks or jobs that you find interesting in the “Find Opportunities” section.   

There are all sorts of different types of online volunteering opportunities: would you like to teach a maths class to children in Pakistan, or would you prefer to help write a fundraising strategy for older people in Cameroon?  Would you like to like to work on social media activities with a group based in Lebanon, or would you prefer to map villages, roads and buildings in rural Tanzania, to protect young girls from FGM instead?  The diversity of tasks is vast and the types of placement various. 

The role description tells you how many hours per week are required, a little information about the organisation and which SDG the role relates to. 

There are also a number of online volunteering positions with the European Union Aid Volunteering Initiative (EUAVI).  For example, do you have the skills to be an English – Spanish translator who could assist current volunteers who are deployed in Spanish speaking countries and who might need assistance translating technical pieces of documentation?  This role would compliment the work of the live, physical EUAVI volunteer, with some personal interactions over the internet too.   

As the physical, three-dimensional volunteers from all over the world postpone their trips to the so-called global south, the interest in these platforms will no doubt increase in the coming months.  The opportunities from the UNV and EUAVI programmes are snapped up quickly by eager potential volunteers, so you would need to keep your eyes on the websites daily, for updates.     

We would still recommend that if you’re thinking about volunteering you sign up to the Comhlámh Volunteer Charter as the principles remain the same:  namely to reflect on your motivations, familiarise yourself with the role, respect the local customs and traditions (online), be professional, take care of your health (and in particular your mental health at this time), and to channel the experiences back into the Irish society. 

As other organisations find their online feet, no doubt more opportunities will arise, so keep your eyes on the social media and websites of the bigger organisations who are probably still working to find meaningful work for their current retail, campaign volunteers and of course fundraising teams.  And we try to gather some of the updates together and post them onto VolOps daily, to make the search easier for you.  You can also follow the VolOps Facebook and Twitter updates on our website and we wish you all the best in finding an opportunity, which is rich and meaningful, and which will contribute to the overall work of development. 

Links to the UNV Online programme, the EUAVI online programme and the Comhlámh volunteer charter: